This article originally appeared in Capital Commentary in December, 2010.
For several years now John Baillie’s little Diary of Private Prayer (first recommended to me by my dear friend Steven Garber, of the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation, and Culture, and available from Byron Borger’s wonderful Hearts & Minds Books) has served as the backbone to my morning prayers. For the morning that I write this—December 16, a day of celebration for me as it was the day I wed my dearest Angela, nearly a quarter of a century ago—a part of the prayer Baillie wrote reads as follows:
Oh Thou Desire of all nations, in the knowledge of whose love and power there is salvation for all the peoples of the earth, hasten the day, I beseech Thee, when all men shall acknowledge Thee as Lord over all. Hasten the day when our earthly society shall become the kingdom of Christ. Hasten the day when Thy presence and the strong hand of Thy purpose shall be found not only in the hearts of a few wise and brave men but throughout the broad land, in court and council-chamber, in workshop and market-place, in the city and in the fields. And whatever I myself can do, give me grace this day to begin; through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dr. Baillie was no stranger to political life—chaplain to the Queen in Scotland, he walked in the coronation procession of Elizabeth II, and his prayers speak of an honest, unpretentious, thoroughly realistic awareness that, in politics as in all of life, “all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; / And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell,” and that yet, “though the last lights off the black West went / Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs” (Hopkins, “God’s Grandeur”).
His prayer for the 16th morning of the month is a prayer that looks toward that morning. While it is a prayer that I pray every month, it is a prayer that is intensified in the season of Advent, in these days immediately preceding Christmas. As we recall the Old Testament people of God waiting, yearning, crying for deliverance (“make haste!” cried David in Psalm 40), a deliverance eventually realized on Christmas Day, in the birth of Jesus, so now we also wait, yearn, cry: Hasten the day when our earthly society shall become the kingdom of Christ, reads John Baillie’s prayer.
Hasten the day, indeed. In these days, as we pray in private and with those intimately close to us, as we worship and carol in public with our churches and neighbors, may we glimpse the morning. And whatever we ourselves can do—in the pursuit of public justice, also—give us grace this day to begin; through Jesus Christ.
A blessed Advent and a Merry Christmas to all our readers, and may the new year be one in which we work together for justice with fresh vigor and enduring hope.
—Gideon Strauss is a senior fellow of the Center for Public Justice and executive director of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership.